My younger son has a toy remote-controlled helicopter that he loves to fly everywhere. It can hover for minutes on end and land on your palm, and it even has a camera. In other words, it's what the military calls an unmanned aerial vehicle--a drone. In some ways, it's a miniature version of a giant Predator.
In the military and now in civilian life, drones are a transformative technology. They expand our reach in ways we understand and ways we don't. Drones are among the most powerful weapons ever created and also among the most powerful surveillance tools. Lev Grossman's cover story poses a lot of important questions about the use of drones both in warfare and in our own lives. What is the legal right of the U.S. to use drones to kill alleged terrorists in foreign countries? Why wouldn't those countries use drones in America? The Supreme Court has said police can use planes to monitor whether you're growing marijuana in your backyard. Can they use drones to fly by your bedroom window to see if you're smoking it?
"The heart of the piece," says Lev, "is an exploration of what happens when you take this technology, which has engendered so much practical and ethical confusion in the military sphere, and introduce it into our domestic airspace." The conundrum is that our use of drones seems to be evolving faster than our ability to understand how to use them legally and ethically.
Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR
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